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Press release

China ends USA's three-year run as World Grand Prix champions


China's Chunlei Zeng beats the USA block

 Sapporo, Japan, August 30, 2013 – USA’s three-year run as champions of the FIVB World Grand Prix ended in Sapporo on Friday as they suffered their third straight loss, beaten 3-0 (25-20, 25-23, 25-17) by China at Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center. It was China’s third straight win in the Finals. 

China were led by Zhu Ting with 23 points, while USA’s top scorer was Kelly Murphy with 11

USA had the edge in blocking points (8-7) and service points (4-3) but committed 18 errors to China’s 13.

With Zhu Ting and Zeng Chunlei in the starting lineup – both had significant roles as subs in Thursday’s five-set win over Italy – China started very confidently and blitzed the Americans in the opening phase, surging to an 8-1 lead at the first technical timeout. Zhu scored four of those points with some huge kills and a good block on Christa Harmotto and China appeared to be cruising. But the Americans started to find a bit of rhythm after the break and captain Kristin Hildebrand came up with excellent blocks on Yang Junjing and Zeng to help her team close the gap to three points at 9-6. China pulled away again and were seven points ahead at the second TTO but then had a sloppy phase that allowed USA to narrow the gap to 17-14, when China coach Ling Pang called a timeout. A great block by Lauren Gibbemeyer on Zhu saw the Americans close to 20-18 but that was as close as they could get. The set ended with the Americans failing to get back weak shots from Yin Na and Ma Yunwen. 

Harmotto started the second set with a massive block on Zeng and an overturned China point saw the Americans zip into a 4-0 lead. But errors allowed China to draw level at 9-9 and 11-11. However, they couldn’t take the lead. A rocket by Hildebrand and a reception error put USA 18-14 ahead before three straight points by Zhu brought China back into the game. USA coach Karch Kiraly called a timeout when a service ace by Zeng levelled the scores at 21and then had to see China steal the set. Some brilliant defence saw China take the lead for the first time at 23-22 and a spike by Zhu brought setpoint at 24-23. Zhu then blocked Kimberly Hill – for her 19th point of the match – to put China 2-0 up. 

Hildebrand slammed down three kills and made a good block on Ma as USA streaked into a 6-1 lead in the third set, prompting Lang Ping to call a timeout. China survived USA’s second challenge of the set and overturned a six-point deficit at the first TTO to draw level at 9-9 and they went ahead at 12-11 on a vicious blow by Zeng. Kiraly called a timeout at 18-15 after a three-point break by China but USA couldn’t get back into the game. Zhu and Hui came up with rockets as China stretched their lead to seven points at 23-16. A block by Zeng on Hill brought matchpoint and a long shot by Hill ended the match and USA’s reign as World Grand Prix champions.

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